The Hunchback Of Barcelona by Ilona Martonfi

 Day 7: July 19, 1989. Boarding overnight train Malaga – Barcelona.

Palm-shaded square, fountain and cafés. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Walking tour Picasso Museum with our children: Two adult daughters. Twelve-year-old son. Shopping on Las Ramblas. 

Terrace walls used as wild gardens: Vivid bougainvillea climbing fretted-wood. Five-week family vacation in Europe and North Africa. Beside a railroad station we booked two hotel rooms. After supper, I left the children’s room. Unchaperoned: I didn’t take one of our daughters as my dueña.

 A woman in taupe dress. Black sandals. Quartzite necklace. Cerise lipstick. Leather bag with five plane tickets. Travel checks.

Down one flight of stairs. Not a single chair furnished the dark, dank hotel lobby. A bare light bulb hung from the ceiling. I opened the door: Under a hibiscus, stone benches. Male cicadas calling from magnolia trees.

 I wandered narrow streets, past iron-shuttered storefronts. One after the other I counted them. A woman walking on the sidewalk. I caught sight of him: A short man. Bearded. Glasses. White polo shirt and khaki slacks. He stopped in front of a store. Saw my reflection in a mirror: “You are spying on me! You are following me!”

 Four days ago in a Tangier hotel, he slapped me: “Get your bags out of my room! I will divorce you!” Today he said: “Do you want a coffee?”

 A crowd of locals in a tapas bar: alcohol and plates piled high with potatoes and fried calamari, patatas bravas and rabas. Feta and tomato salad. Apricot tart. A glass of Galician white wine.

 Paintings. Gouaches. Watercolours and oils. And wooden walls with many mirrors. Flamenco music strummed on the guitar. We climbed two bar stools. Bottle of Coca-Cola. Plastic straws. The silence galloping over cold marble. When I saw a hunchback in the mirror: I turned around and looked at him. Quickly turned away. Smiled to myself. The Spaniard.

 I recalled a dream: A hunchback hisses into my ear: “I hate you. You did not let me grow!” The image changes into our eldest, married daughter. I wake up startled. I didn’t let my daughter grow? Did she hate me? An omen that chilled me.

 A crowd of locals. In a tapas bar, I saw the hunchback of my dream: A middle-aged man. Straight black hair. Large hands. Neatly pressed dark blue suit. Polished black laced shoes. Against the flowered upholstery of a high-backed armchair: sitting alone.

 I walked back to our hotel with my husband. Didn’t share my dream. Unlocked the children’s room. He walked to his room at the end of the dimly lit hall. Potted red oleander at the foot of the stairs. Flamenco music played on the guitar.

Ilona Martonfi Author of two poetry books, Blue Poppy, (Coracle Press, 2009.) Black Grass, (Broken Rules Press 2012). Published in Vallum, Accenti, The Fiddlehead, Serai. Poet, editor, teacher. Founder/producer of The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Readings, co-founder of Lovers and Others. QWF 2010 Community Award.

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